Can I Use Garden Compost In Aquarium?

Open bag of rich garden compost on a wooden surface with gardening tools in the background, ready for use.

The best way to have underwater plants in the aquarium in your house is to embed soil. But aquarium owners often wonder if it’s fine to use garden compost in their aquarium. Different soil types, such as Amazonia soil, are readily available in the market, but not every aquarist is ready to spend heavily on soils.

For underground plant life, a suitable substrate is required, i.e., organic soil. Because if the soil is non-organic, it can be poisonous for the fish in the aquarium. But if you want to save money by using the soil from your garden, it’d be best to follow the proper guidelines for your benefit and that of your underwater life. However, there are other options, including gravel and sand, that you can use instead.

We will show you how to create organic soil from your garden compost.

There are a few steps and tips that you need to know before embedding garden soil into the aquarium.

What is Compost

Compost comprises carbon-based substances such as tiny twigs and dead leaves and nitrogen-based green matter such as fresh plant trimmings, grass clippings, and plant-based kitchen waste.

Using Garden Compost In The Tank

Although garden compost can be harmful to the fish in your aquarium, in the absence of other alternatives, you can use garden compost that has been treated.


Using soil for planting in the tank can be beneficial as the soil is rich in nutrients. Using the garden compost might take time and effort, but it will save a considerable amount. Let’s get started:

  • You will require a bucket to collect garden soil for further procedures.
  • Filter out any twigs, stones, or insects present in the soil. Furthermore, gather the right amount of soil that can fill up to 2 inches of depth from the bottom.
  • Now take out a section of soil and spread it over a baking sheet. Heat the soil at 200°F for about 20-minutes. This step will help kill germs and unseen microorganisms in the soil.
  • Repeat the step with other sections of the gathered soil to prevent any harmful residents from the soil.

How To Aquascape Using Garden Soil?

Doing this for the first time can be hectic and overwhelming because you will have to evacuate the fish from the aquarium before you begin.

If the fish are already in the tank, follow the steps below:

First, you need to transfer the fish to another container so that you can plant it in the tank.

  • A large container with clean water is required for the fish to be transferred in
  • Drain out the previous water from the tank and clean it carefully.
  • Now dry the tank before adding the refined garden soil to it, too, to create a leveled base.
  • Make sure the soil is thick enough to plant the roots easily.
  • The depth of soil from the bottom should be 2 inches.

Benefits of Using Garden Soil to Aquascape Your Aquarium

When you aquascape with substrates such as gravel or sand, it becomes difficult to grow live plants in your aquarium. Substrates are only suitable for aquariums with plastic plants. But the soil contains nutrients for live plants to take root and grow. Garden soils are suitable for all kinds of aquarium plants to thrive. It also settles firmly at the base of your aquarium.

Another advantage of using garden soil is that they do not require additional preparatory procedures or layer at the base of your aquarium – they are complete substrate on their own.

Vibrant aquarium scene with diverse fish among coral, suggesting the potential use of garden compost for aquatic plant life.

The Process Of Planting Into The Garden Soil

Different tank aquarists prefer different methods. Some add the plants immediately after leveling up the soil, while others prefer filling and draining a few times. Although the first time can be confusing, you will find your way.

Once the filtered and refined garden soil is all leveled up in the tank, you can add the water. The height of the water should be 4 inches. Now it is time to add sufficient plants into the soil.

Preferred plants include Duckweed and Java moss which will soak up the nutrients. This way, the algae won’t be able to bloom in the tank as there won’t be enough nutrients left for it.

After all the hard work, you might worry that you do not spoil the soil that is embedded while planting. It is necessary to fill the tank with dechlorinated water and recycle it quite a few times. The purpose of recycling the water is to remove the ammonia that the soil will be releasing.

Now, you can introduce the fish to the new environment.

How to Maintain the Fish Tank with Garden Compost and Plants

Maintenance of the fish tank is essential and should be done regularly. Here’s how to go about it:

  • The first two to three weeks are crucial as you must change almost fifteen percent of the water daily. This will allow you to maintain the nutrients for the plants embedded in the soil.
  • Do not panic if some plants wilt or melt. They take some time to get used to the surroundings. In a few days, the plants will regrow and get stronger.
  • Even if there is new growth, you do not have to worry. The plants will protect themselves, and the green aquascape will look tremendous with time.

Final Thoughts

Now you know better whether or not to use garden soil for your aquarium. If you use garden compost for plantation in the tank, ensure you stick to the correct procedure. If it is your first time, then you’ll need proper research and patience during the process.

Once the steps are followed correctly, you can easily maintain the green life in the tank.

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